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Daughters Only: The Stigma and the Cure

Proud Mama and her daughters

I am on Facebook, looking at my newsfeed. As I scroll down, I notice a friend’s post in which she thanks God for the birth of her “prince”. She had three daughters before finally getting a son. So she cannot help but celebrate her boy. I go to the comments and read. Another friend writes in Cameroon Pidgin English: “You should thank God that you have given birth to your husband’s successor. If you didn’t get a son your husband would have sent you parking from that marriage.”

In Cameroon, a male child is usually referred to as the “chop chair” of his father. This means he is the fit child to succeed his father. But female children are rarely accorded this position.

When a woman gives birth to a female child, the child is not as valued as when she gives birth to a male. So a woman who finally gets a son after two or more daughters feels like she has walked right into light after darkening moments of daughters only.

My pen is eager to talk about this “daughter only syndrome” that many have been erroneously coined a cankerworm. It is one of those issues that I do not only witness but also experience.

I gave birth to my second daughter and was enjoying her ravishing beauty when my brother-in-law’s wife phoned me and said: “We hear you are only giving birth to girls.” As a typical African woman, she expressed her disappointment in me for bringing forth a female child again instead of a “chop chair” for my husband.

This is where violence against women starts- right from when the girl is born. She is under looked, undervalued and unwanted.

Society pressurizes her mother to subsequently bring forth a son and be a “real woman”. Some women get pregnant again rapidly and their hope is, “It’s a boy this time.”

Then with panting hearts, they wait for the news….Nope! It’s a girl again. They are disappointed and desperate. They are likely to ill treat their God-sent queen. Other women make them feel inadequate. They develop an inferiority complex especially in front of those who are “proud” mamas of strong boys.

They do not lose hope. They produce a chain of female children in their quest for males. From one female child to the next their hope diminishes. In the end they are stuck with daughters only.

Their husbands take in second wives who can bear them sons. After suffering verbal abuse for their incapacity to produce sons they have to battle it out with competitive co-wives.

Some visit witch doctors in sought of a supernatural power that can cleanse their wombs and enable them to produce “real” children.

Is it not obvious? The stigma that has been attached to women bearing just daughters has lots on harmful effects. I call this the “accepted madness”.

Even hospitals in Cameroon are realizing the red light this brings and they are putting a STOP sign to it.

One of such is the Mbingo Baptist Health Center in Cameroon’s economic capital, Douala. This was my venue for an ultrasound during my first pregnancy. I understood the medical benefits of having my womb viewed under the radiologist’s lenses.

But I was also eager to know if I will be having a boy or a girl so that I could plan to buy blue stuff or pink stuff. However, the medical specialist declined to reveal the baby’s sex to me. I was disappointed but I got her point.

According to a midwife that taught us at the ante-natal class in this same hospital, they began refusing to unveil baby’s sexes to mothers because of the negative reactions put up by those who badly wanted boys and were frustrated when the medical images revealed they were carrying girls.

She said a lot of women became downcast when they were told they were carrying girls and not boys as they wanted. And carrying that feeling of rejection towards a baby is not good for the wellbeing of the child.

The maternal health workers at the Mbingo Baptist Health Centre strongly believe in the well-known Pidgin English saying, “Pikin na pikin”. This means “every child is valuable no matter the sex.”

According to the Huffington Post, a Nigerian baby factory uncovered months ago in the Southeastern region of the country sold boys for more money than girls.

Still in this report by the Huffington Post, Nigerian ex-judge Oby Nwankwo said, “Widows and daughters have faced massive obstacles when trying to inherit family resources after the death of a patriarch.”

This explains why women/girls feel disadvantaged. They do not enjoy the same privileges as men/boys.

Well, I am from a typical African society and I know for sure that a girl is not a less important child. Yes, I will like to have a son in the future but that’s not because I feel handicapped as a girls-only mom. It is because I want a taste of both sexes. I am not seeking for some approval from the propagators of this “accepted madness.”

If bearing only girls is a crime, then let me be the culprit. If they think it makes a mom inferior, well it only makes me superior.

The President of the United States, Barack Obama has two daughters. Are they not cute? Is Michelle Obama in any way handicapped because she bore only girls? The answer is an emphatic, “No!”

Our culture has continuously sold the idea of boys being better than girls and unfortunately, many mothers are buying it.

It is time to change this weird line of thinking. Let us celebrate our daughters from when they are in our wombs, to when they are born till when they grow up.

Let us flaunt and flaunt them until those who believe in boys as the better kids will become envious.

My daughter just held me and she told me in her cute little voice, “Mummy, I love you.” I know… daughters are really sweet.

“Pikin na pikin and girl pikin na better pikin!” (Each child is special and girls are super special)

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Comments

Mary S's picture

Hi Precious You are a wise

Hi Precious

You are a wise woman, and you have two beautiful daughters!

With you as their mother, I think they will also grow up to understand that women should be treated as equals in everything, and if you do one day have a son, he will too. And slowly as more and more people come to understand this, attitudes will change and people will simply be happy to have a healthy child whether it is a girl or a boy.

Mary

Precious M's picture

Attitudinal change

Hi Mary,

I look forward to this wide attitudinal change. It will be most welcome.
Thanks for stopping by.

Precious

My pen speaks

Phinnie's picture

For the love of girls

Precious--
Your heart knows what is right and what it means to express love for all children. In most of the world, unfortunately, boy babies are still favored over girl babies...You are an inspiration as you challenge cultural beliefs.
Wishing you and your beautiful daughters PEACE and love with amazing opportunities!
PEACE!
Phinnie

Precious M's picture

Yep for the love of girls

Dear Phinnie,

It hurts me when some children are disfavored because of their gender.
Thanks for the good wishes for me and my daughters!

Love,
Precious

My pen speaks

Phinnie's picture

Never stop writing!

Precious--

You write so well and have so much to say!

PEACE!

Phinnie

Precious M's picture

What an encouragement!

Thanks dear Phinnie.
I will never stop writing.
I just started my blog: preciouscore.blogspot.com
Your comments are welcome.
Thanks again!

Love,
Precious

My pen speaks

Y's picture

“every child is valuable no

“every child is valuable no matter the sex.” Saying it does not make it so. As an act of mercy toward the unwanted girls, the mothers should be allowed to abort them before they are born to be repeatedly abused.

This mistreatment of women and children is directly from Abraham, the "father" of three major religions. Read the story about how he treated his wife, Ishmael and his mother, and Isaac.

Yvette

Precious M's picture

You Y!

Haha, there you go again Y, accusing religion for the plight of women
Sarah and not Abraham was the one who mistreated Hagar (Ishmael's mother).
She asked Abraham to send Hagar away and because of the respect he had for Sarah, he agreed.
If Christianity is practiced rightly, this world will be a far better place for women.

Precious

My pen speaks

Y's picture

Abraham married his sister

Abraham married his sister Sarah and prostituted her to save his own skin. He allowed Sarah to send off his son and his son's mother, and then denied Ishmael the rights of a first-born son.

I agree that, if we all follow Jesus, the world would be a wonderful place, but what we call "Christianity" doesn't seem to be doing a very good job of that.

Yvette

mrbeckbeck's picture

How will we make change?

Y, I'm curious about your thoughts here. How will we make change if we don't start believing in the value and power of women and girls? Simply getting rid of girls won't help to change attitudes, as we see in sex-selective countries, it can in fact perpetuate it.

I'm not totally familiar with the biblical stories you're discussing, but I'm wondering if there is anything in there about ending these practices, making the world a better place in the face of violations and discrimination? Or is that story for all of us to write now?

Either way, I think that Precious here has made a bold statement in defense of the value of girls and women and I feel like we can honor and support her, as so much of the world is against this message.

Respectfully,

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

Y's picture

Dear Scott, I am sorry that I

Dear Scott,
I am sorry that I seem to have offended Precious and you with my comments. Please let me know if there are parameters for comment content about which I am unaware.

I am not sure how I could be more supportive of the value and power of women and girls than I am in my work with World Pulse and several other sites that encourage and empower the worldwide voices and actions of women and girls. I realize that religion and politics are not to be discussed in "polite" society, but I feel that the issues we are facing regarding worldwide peace and justice are all about religion and politics.

I am not promoting abortion of girl children. I am promoting the discontinuation of being baby mills for those who seek to abuse our progeny. I want to encourage women to speak out against women who accept the traditions of their cultures in giving birth to babies that they neither want nor have the intention or resources with which to cherish all their children, no matter the gender or birth order. Birth control makes this possible. The use of it seems to contribute to the tendency of fathers (and other family members) to treat all their children as special.

Unless one is familiar with the Bible, the Koran, and animal husbandry, one cannot truly understand the many centuries of the cultural pressure that continues to bear on the oppression of women and girls; nor can one understand where the acceptance of war as a way of life comes from. Religions calling themselves "Christianity" are not necessarily following in the footsteps of Jesus, but I do believe that following in the footsteps of Jesus would make the world a better place.

I do support Precious and all who expend their energies in writing for World Pulse. My concern is with the acceptance women have of pressure to bear the son, even though we know that the boy's importance will place our girls in the shadow of the "prince." The girls are then pressured to wait on the "prince," at the same time that they are expected to take care of the infants, the aged, and the ill in the family. This leaves little time or energy for them to become fully themselves and serve a greater society than their families of origin.

Blessings to both you and Precious.
Yvette

Yvette

mrbeckbeck's picture

Understood!

Hi Yvette,
Thanks for your reply. I appreciate your thoughtful explanation here, giving us more insight into your comments. I know wholeheartedly that you value and support women and girls, especially seen through your work here with us.

It's true that religion and politics underlay many of the problems and challenges, and we have to talk about them to figure out the solutions! My comments were intended to be a slight redirection of the conversation, to focus more on the solutions, to explore the possibilities, to carve out a constructive path of discussion-- that is a general parameter of our community here. Disagreements are welcome; conflict leaves room for growth... but, I hope you understand my role to maintain a respectful and compassionate dialogue.

Your comments here paint a more clear picture of your perspective, and I think are very interesting to the discussion. I see what you're saying about the pressure to bear a son... and I hear Precious saying that she would like to have a son so she can see that side of the human puzzle too. It's an interesting discussion about birth-control, choice and social value.

Thank you Yvette, I hope my comments help bridge understanding here. :)

With appreciation,

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

Y's picture

Dear Scott., Thank you so

Dear Scott.,
Thank you so much for your intervention. My greatest grief in life is how few there are with the patience, insight and courage to ask for clarification in misunderstandings, especially misunderstanding between and among women. As children of mothers (as we all are), we are taught that mother is "She Who Will Be Obeyed." This often makes people shy away from questioning us, especially if we are seen as extremely powerful, as I am by many.

I will wait to see if Precious would like to continue to engage me in this dialog.

Blessings on your bravery.

Yvette

Precious M's picture

Hello Y and Scott

I really like when we are able to explore our differing views to an issue like I have read above.

Let me start again with the issue of Christianity.The Bible in presenting Abraham and the other servants of God did not tell us they were perfect.Many books about great men highlight their successes and do not sure us their failures. However, the Bible shows us the weaknesses of all the people that it presents to us. The only person that did not fail is Jesus! So yes, Abraham failed at certain points but that did not in any way mean that God/Jesus favors violence against women. The Bible is the best guide if the world will be a better place for women. The fact that some people misinterpret Biblical truths in order to suit their personal desires does not mean that Jesus said women should be mistreated.

When and if I get a son, my daughters won't live in his shadow. No way! That's why I'm raising up this issue so that women who cherish male children over females should change their perspectives.

Every child is priceless!

Precious

My pen speaks

Y's picture

Dear Precious, I am so

Dear Precious,
I am so excited to be continuing this discussion with you. I spend most of my time exploring comparative religions and spiritual practices. As with all sisters, we should able able to discuss anything with respect. I am really grateful to Scott for acting as mediator.

My issue with the Bible's OT is that it is so often misinterpreted and looked at as a "how-to" manual for modern moral life. Jesus said that the men of the OT were hard-hearted, and Abraham certainly seemed to fit this mold. I know that Jesus did not advocate violence against anyone, but we still have many religious leaders turning to the OT to justify violence and injustice in every manner.

Jesus began a new way of understanding and accepting The Holy Spirit, and I believe he left the fullness of The Holy Spirit with us at Pentecost. I think we must stop looking backward for how to create peace "on earth as it is in heaven" and look forward toward Post-Pentecost followers of Jesus. The term "Christian"seems to have, long since, stopped meaning followers of Jesus as their Christ.

I don't think Paul helped the plight of women with his words about celibacy, women's silence, or positioning love as something other than the messy relationships we actually share with those we love in a physical world.

I say at lot about my beliefs on my blog OneFamilyManyFaiths.blogspot.com, and also in my World Pulse journal.

Blessings to you and your beautiful family.

Love and great respect,

Yvette

Yvette

Precious M's picture

I am excited too

Hello Y,

It is nice to hear from you again.You have raised an important issue here. Jesus came with a new commandment, love! That is why in the new testament, we find a new covenant. Focusing on the OT alone will lead to the wrong practices.

About Paul, there are times when he clearly said what he was speaking wasn't led by the Holy Spirit. So again, he was a man who had his own views which were not necessarily in line with God's views. His telling women to keep silent was based on the context. That is not meant to be a rule.

I just looked at your blog now and I must say I admire your poetic way of writing.

Thanks and blessings to your family too.

Love,
Precious

My pen speaks

Y's picture

Thank you for you compliment

Thank you for you compliment on my poetry. maybe i could have been a Psalmist in the OT. LOL.

My concern about what we call "Christianity, as defined by the Roman Catholic Church and handed down as "Christianity" from, at latest, the time of Constantine (fourth century), is that it is based more on the teachings of Paul than on the examples of Jesus.

I focus on the gifts of The Holy Spirit of Jesus and all true humans freely left at Pentecost, to all who choose to embrace the sacred in themselves and others. I believe Pentecost was the Second Coming of Jesus.

Yvette

Precious M's picture

You are welcome!

Lol Y. You really would have been a Psalmist in the OT! But you are our poet now.

Christianity to me is not what the Roman Catholic Church or any other church says but what The Bible says. Men tend to interprete scriptures to suit their personal interests. But to me, the Bible is my final authority.

My pen speaks

Y's picture

I'd like to hear more of the

I'd like to hear more of the way you interpret the individual stories from the Bible.

Yvette

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